The Beauty of Blood Oranges

 

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In Canada we get excited when local fruit comes into season. Early spring is rhubarb season, then as the days get longer and warmer more fruits and vegetables take front and centre stage. But when it comes to imported and tropical fruits, it seems we tend to take them for granted; you can always get an orange, they seem to be the same year round. But of course there are growing seasons for oranges too, and the best time of the year for Blood oranges is right now, from January to May.

Blood oranges are a variety of orange that get their distinctive crimson colour from anthocyanin, an antioxidant that has been linked to the reduction of fat in the liver. The pigment imparts a dramatic colour to the flesh of the orange that can range from a light red near the pith of the rind to a deep maroon throughout, darkening as the fruit ripens. The flavour of the blood orange also matures, deepening from slightly tart citrus to a sweeter, almost berry-like flavour. These characteristics make the blood orange a desirable choice for cooks, chefs, juice enthusiasts and mixologists, as the fruit is as visually stunning as it is delicious.

 

The longer it ripens the darker it gets

The longer it ripens the darker it gets

 

In salads, in baked goods like this stunning upside-down blood orange cake  in margaritas and sangria, the blood orange’s presence is unmistakable. And of course they are delicious on their own too, just peeled and eaten fresh. It’s not often that you find a fresh ingredient that shines in desserts, main courses and beverages, but the blood orange is a perfect fit for all three, just have a gander at this beautiful roasted beet and blood orange salad.

 

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Recently our friend Greg Graveline made a gorgeous blood orange cake and was kind enough to share his recipe with us. It is a simple thing of beauty that can be made this afternoon and served tonight. This recipe can be made with a regular orange, but try it with a blood orange, the subtle difference in colour and taste will have you asking for another slice!

Blood Orange Cake

1 blood orange

3 eggs

100 ml olive oil

100 ml buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

300 g sugar (1 1/2 cups)

300 g flour (2 1/3 cups)

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

optional:

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 tsp real orange extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a round cake tin- a 9 inch springform pan works well- and add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom of the pan. Zest one orange and set aside the zest. Peel the orange, seed it and cut it into pieces. Place orange pieces, eggs, oil, ¾ of the buttermilk, vanilla and sugar in the bowl of your food processor. Blend well but still leave a little texture. Add the flour, baking powder and baking soda and run for another 30 seconds to form the batter. Check the consistency of the batter; add the remaining buttermilk if the batter seems too thick. Pour into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Blood orange glaze and garnish

1 blood orange

2 cups icing sugar

Extract ¼ cup juice from the orange and mix with 2 cups icing sugar to make the glaze. Adjust liquid or sugar to achieve desired consistency. Use the remainder of orange for zest and or orange twists as a garnish.

Notes:

-Try to use a thin-skinned orange to minimize the amount of pith.

-Be conservative with the liquid; too much liquid and the cake will be too dense or collapse

– for more orange flavour, add 1 tablespoon zest to the batter, and or 1 tsp real orange extract.

 

Blood orange cake courtesy of Greg Graveline

Blood orange cake courtesy of Greg Graveline

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